TLS Continuum Part 56: A team is greater than its parts, It is not dependent on a single part

Your organizations has committed to improving your processes, however you have left out a critical part of the equation. No process improvement effort tis going to succeed without the input from a cross-functional team which looks at both the current and future state of the process within the organization.

In order for a cross-functional team to be successful there are several ground rules that need to be followed.  The intent of this weekly blog poste is to review those ground rules:

Rule # 1: Truly cross-functional team – Consider this point. The purpose of a cross-functional team is bringing to the table all the aspects of a process problem. When considering team make up, consider all that the process touches. This means all the stakeholders both internal and external. This means the CEO as well as the maintenance staff.

Rule #2: Diversity of Ideas – When reviewing the problem and the associated processes, have a truly open discussion about the problem and possible solutions. Don’t enter with pre-conceived ideas as to the solution. Don’t automatically tell a team member that their ide won’t work unless you can produce evidence-based data, which says it won’t work. Be careful that the data is biased free.

Rule #3: Cross-functional teams are not a place for resume padding – Team members must be actively engaged with each other. As we stated in a previous blog teams must be authentic in nature. This is not a place for one person to domineer the discussion in order for them to pad their resume. It is not their team it is the organization’s team.

Rule #4: Everyone’s ideas has validity – It is critical that the team not automatically rule out a potential solution because the originator is deemed to not be worthy based on some stereotype concept of who they are.

Rule #5: Team ownership - Under no circumstances is this cross-functional team owned by a single person or idea. Under no circumstance is this team effort the personal domain of a single department. The team and the organization as a whole own it.

Considering the world outside the organization and the news that has hit the media of late let me suggest that these five rules can be applied to the problems that society faces today. In trying to resolve the issues facing society we will never find a solution unless we bring together the entire “village” and listen to their ideas as to how we can reduce the level of violence that is taking place today. Society if we work together can bring a diverse array of solutions that make sense for the society as a whole. Further it is critical that one group not rule out another’s perspective just because of who that group is.  John Howard Griffin, in his critical book Black Like Me, showed us the problems with stereotypes. We can’t expect to improve society ills as well as organizational ills when we believe that who we are determines whether our ideas are valid. We can’t expect to improve society ills as well as organizational ills when we believe that our role in either is pre-destined. If we stereotype the involvement of others we lose the authenticity of the group as a whole.

There is a part of a poem by Adrienne Rich in which she states that if we demean others and their impact on our lives we end up with that individual looking in a mirror and believing there is nothing there.  We can only expect to achieve the goals we have set for each other when we are all involved in the end solution. Teams are never the result of a single person or group, they involve intense collaboration where the end result maybe a particular solution which may have been suggested by one person but it is the team collaborative view that the solution is the best for the organization or the society at this time in this place and for this problem.  We need to genuinely invest in making our teams efforts to improve the world have genuine, authentic purpose. We want to insure that the cross-functional team effort was a good one so team members are willing to serve on future improvement efforts. We only achieve this goal when everyone understands that the team is greater than its parts and it is not a platform to super-charge one person’s career or conceived fiefdom. It is all or none.


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